There are so many things to do when it comes to career planning. Choose a career path, get involved, gain work experience, secure an internship, write your resume, complete a LinkedIn profile, network, attend career fairs…the list goes on and on. Given the number of to-dos, it’s nice when you can find a task that can accomplish several things at once. One such task is the informational interview.
- Explore a potential career of interest
- Gain insight into your intended career path
- Build your network
- Jump start an internship or job search
While most of us career center folks will encourage you to conduct informational interviews, I understand that this can seem intimidating. We’re asking you to sit down with a professional, whom you may or may not know, and ask them questions about themselves. I will admit that I would probably find it challenging. Hopefully with a little guidance, you will feel more confident to undertake this excellent career development opportunity.
Finding Someone to Interview
If you’re going to conduct an informational interview, you need to find someone to interview. There are several resources at your disposal for identifying a potential interviewee. If your a recent graduate with your masters of science in nursing, call your local hospital or a few Drs offices. There are several resources at your disposal for identifying a potential interviewee. First, check with your parents. Do they know anyone in your desired field? This personal connection definitely helps. Talk with your campus career center, as they often have connections with professionals in a wide range of fields. Connecting with alumni is also a strategy. Finally, you can research local professionals on your own. For example, if you’re interested in becoming a lawyer, you should be able to identify a lawyer or two in the surrounding area to reach out to.
Setting Up the Interview
Once you know who you would like to interview, contact them well in advance to request an informational interview. You are asking if you could take an hour of their time to ask them some questions about their job and career. From my perspective, reaching out via e-mail is a good approach. It gives the person time to review your request and respond in their own time. If you don’t hear back within a couple of weeks, follow up, understanding that e-mails can sometimes be lost in the crowd.
Prepare for the Interview
Practice your handshake and prepare your introduction. Even more importantly, prepare your questions to ask. Ideally, you want to leave the interview with a sense of what the person’s typical day looks like, how they got started in the field, and what they did while in college to prepare. Ask some company and industry related questions as well. Prepare a copy of your resume to bring and if it feels appropriate, you might ask if they would mind taking a look at your resume. If you do, the goal of them looking at your resume is to have your experiences to date assessed and to get some advice about next steps for making yourself more marketable.
Informational interviews can provide a wealth of information, and you will learn about your career path in a whole new way. And be sure to not just stop at one. Keep connecting with professionals and learning about your field. In the long run, you are laying a solid foundation for your internship/job search and future career.
Laura serves as Internship Coordinator at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater in the office of Career & Leadership Development. In this role, Laura advises students who are pursuing internships, assists employers with intern recruitment, and supports university faculty who oversee academic internships. She also provides students with job search readiness assistance through presentations, individual counseling, and social media. Laura earned her bachelors degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she majored in French and Political Science, and she received her masters degree in Counseling from UW-Whitewater. To learn more about Laura, read her blog, follow her on Twitter, or connect on LinkedIn.